Every week in health news, there is at least one story that strives to unravel the mysteries of weight loss. This week dark chocolate claims effectiveness in normalizing weight, what will it be next week? News outlets love this kind of story because people are, pardon the pun, hungry for some serious answers.
The problem is that the reigning wisdom about weight loss (Eat less! Exercise more!) is exactly what we've all been hearing for decades while we watch our national waistline get bigger and bigger. The only thing that's clear is that evidently it's not clear to most of us how weight loss happens.
We could have a very lengthy discussion of the science of weight loss, (or you could lose yourself for hours on the blogs of Gary Taubes, Peter Attia, Mike Eades, Denise Minger, Mark Sisson and others), but I think I'll simplify it right here by giving you two choices. There are two ways to lose weight, each with its own set of rules.
- Method 1: Eat less, a fair amount less than you eat now. Eliminate fat. Walk more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator! Pick lean pieces of meat. Restrict sweet carbohydrates, all fats and many proteins. Count everything, and balance intake with output. Fill up on salads and vegetables and whole grains of every variety. Flavor with spices, no butter.
- Method 2: Eat a lot less carbohydrates. Eliminate all carbohydrates except for all the leafy greens you want and some other non-root vegetables. However, freely enjoy meat, fish, poultry and eggs at every meal. Allow yourself to eat all the normal fats that come with your food. Extra fat in the form of cream, cheese, avocado, butter and coconut oil are encouraged. Salt your food. You might want to get a little more exercise.
Actually both of these methods work in the short term. It's the long term where there's a serious catch to each one, are you ready?
Method 1 will require ever-stricter rationing as you go through life, as your metabolism slows down to deal with less fuel. (Method 2 will allow gentle relaxation of the rules over time, as your metabolism speeds up.) Method 1 involves vigilant oversight that on a regular basis you exercise off (5 days a week, at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise is recommended) more calories than you consume, so figure a way to keep counting.
Method 2's catch is that you must eat the fat: the fat on the meat, the yolks of the eggs, some cheese, avocadoes and butter. Without the fat your body will not switch to fat-burning, but rather convert the protein you eat into carbohydrates (it can do that!). Also, because Method 2 differs wildly from what you're probably used to, you may have some adjustment discomfort.
Do I need to say that I think you cannot follow Method 1 and maintain good health. Method 2 may require some coaching, but results in vibrant health and permanent weight loss.
Next blog I'll talk about the challenges some people face with Method 2 and some of the solutions they've found.
Deborah Gordon, M.D., is a family physician specializing in Integrative Medicine. She is a co-founder of www.drdeborahmd.com